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I learned a lot doing backing vocals: Sara Haider on her musical journey

September 10, 2015

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Equipped with vocal cords that make jaws drop, it's evident that the young Haider is going to be around for a while - Photo courtesy: Sara Haider Official Facebook page
Equipped with vocal cords that make jaws drop, it's evident that the young Haider is going to be around for a while - Photo courtesy: Sara Haider Official Facebook page

Sara Haider is everywhere these days; if it's not your Facebook newsfeed, it's your television screens. And for good reason.

Having performed at national and international events including the Apeejay Kolkatta Literary Festival in India and Nida Butt's 'Grease - The Musical', Haider's climb to the top has been riddled with hard work and determination. It's what led to her becoming the youngest member of the Coke Studio family.

A backing vocalist on Coke Studio since Season 7, the latest season of the hugely popular show includes Sara as a featured artist on it's roster. As if that wasn't enough, the young singer got to debut alongside pop icon Ali Zafar with a soulful rendition of the Saleem Raza classic Ae Dil.

Here the singer reflects on the ride so far:

What was it like singing Ae Dil with Ali Zafar? Were you nervous?

Sara Haider (SH): I was initially quite nervous, right up until I actually sat down with Bilal Maqsood to create the new melody. At first, I sang it in a very typical, bareek female voice and he stopped me and said "No no, we want you to sound like yourself. Sing it the way you would sing it at a live show, open up".

They gave me my freedom to open up and experiment and that's when I was like okay, this is going to be fun! That made me a lot more comfortable. Ali was a joy to work with. He was really appreciative and encouraging. And everyone should know: he's really funny!

What do you think about that meme that's been going around on Facebook regarding you doing background vocals? Do you think it took time for you to get the recognition you deserve?

SH: Haha Mehdi bhai! Haha I find it kind of sweet actually. But I learned a lot from backing vocals! You have to sing every kind of song in every language... Every musical style. It's a great learning opportunity in a place with practically no music schools. I'm very lucky!

The meme started circulating on social media after the release of Ae Dil
The meme started circulating on social media after the release of Ae Dil

Which track is your personal favourite from the new Coke Studio season?

SH: Ask Faisal (Kapadia), Bilal, the house band or the production team and they'll tell you that I'm a massive Ali Sethi fan. I thought Umraan Lagiyaan was beautiful!

As a vocalist, I'm beyond inspired by his skill and vocal prowess. Amazing, amazing job. Arsalan, who was on the harmonium was so on point too, I've been listening to that track on repeat!

What advice would you give to aspiring young musicians like yourself?

SH: Keep at it, just keep working. Do everything. The biggest opportunities are often disguised as the most insignificant projects — I've regretted saying no to things much more often than I've regretted saying yes.

What's next in the pipeline for Sara Haider?

SH: Sara Haider is back in the studio and working hard! I'm training every day, I'm learning, recording, looking forward to some great tracks yet to be released this season. It's going to be an exciting year hopefully!